Paying tribute: Natchez community responds to Donut Shop owner’s death

Published 2:15 pm Thursday, March 21, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Balloons, posters, flowers, stuffed animals and candles surround The Donut Shop on the corner of Homochitto Street and John R. Junkin Drive in Natchez.

The displays pay respect to owner Jason Tyson, 43, and his family. Tyson was killed Monday in a three-vehicle collision in Ferriday, Louisiana.

“Rest in heaven Jason,” one poster says. “Thanks for always supporting Natchez and giving us the best donuts in the world. Gone but never forgotten.”

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It was left there by Joel Bacon and Larry Hooper.

(Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat)

Bacon’s photo of the tribute on social media encouraged others to follow suit.

Hooper, who works with Natchez-Adams School District, said he didn’t hesitate to act when Bacon called him about doing something outside the shop.

“(Jason Tyson) was very respectful, polite and supportive of the schools,” Hooper said. “Whenever I wanted to buy teachers donuts … he always took a little off (the price).

“He was hardworking and always asked how things were going. He was genuinely concerned about how our school system is doing. When Joel called me and said we needed to do something I agreed with him. We put the stuff out there Tuesday night. He got the flowers and I got the rest.”

Hooper said he was devastated when he heard the news of Tyson’s death.

“I can’t believe he’s gone,” he said. “He was such a good guy. Then when I heard more about how it happened, I knew his family must be devastated. It could’ve been me or anybody at that traffic light.”

The crash happened after 29-year-old Ben Ceasor, who was wanted in Tensas Parish for aggravated assault with a firearm, reportedly fled less than 100 yards from an initial traffic stop by a Concordia Parish deputy. He was arrested after the incident, which is still under investigation by Louisiana State Police.

Hooper called on prayer warriors to lift up the family.

“I’ve had a lot of experience (with loss) and I know what they are going through,” he said.

Next to the initial poster are more posters with dozens of signatures and condolences to Tyson’s family.

(Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat)

“Our hearts never knew loneliness until you left without us!” one said. “Your footprints will always remain in our hearts.”

The Donut Shop has been a pillar and landmark in the Natchez community since before George Scott and Mary Tyson took ownership of it in 1991 when they bought it from Mary’s aunt and uncle, Dot and Junior Price.

The shop’s sweet breakfast treats and savory burgers have been featured on the Food Network, in Southern Living, The New York Times and National Geographic among other places.

Though he had no intentions of doing so at first, Tyson took over the family business in 2014 to keep it in the family and stop the business from closing.

He changed few things about it and kept the family recipes, a fact many appreciate. Tyson also opened up a second location in Gulfport in 2022.

(Ben Hillyer | The Natchez Democrat)

Besides the business being a favorite in the community, people have praised the character of Tyson and his family.

Tyson leaves behind his wife Stephanie; four children, Carla, Mattie, Bryan and Koen; and two grandchildren Tucker and Paisley, who each meant the world to him, family members said.

“Mr. Jason was one of the kindest people you would ever meet!” said Jordan Lynn when she shared the photo of the poster and flowers on social media. “He always had a smile on his face every time you saw him, especially when he saw Tuck (his grandson). That boy was his whole world.”

“The entire Miss-Lou is hurting over this,” shared Whitney Arbuckle. “I can’t even imagine the hurt and pain (his daughter) Mattie Tyson, Tucker and the rest of her entire family are experiencing. Continue to lift them up and pray for them for even an ounce of healing.”